Nagaland Culinary Bamboo

Ark of taste
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Culinary bamboo refers to the particular species and varieties of bamboo that are used in Nagaland, in northeastern India, particularly in the areas of Mokokchung, Mon, Wokha and Tuensang. These bamboos include Bambusa palliada in the villages of Munro Wokha, Kohima and Zeliang; Teinostachyum dullooa (Gamble) or Schizostachyum dulloa (Gamble) in the area of Yikum near Wokha; and Dendrocalamus hamiltonii Nees et Arn. ex Munro. These bamboos are used especially in the preparation of the dish angu pongsen, or fish cooked in a cut bamboo shaft over firewood.  

The bamboo harvested should preferably be one year old and is usually collected from riversides. The size of the bamboo should be about 7.5 cm in diameter and 12.5 cm long. The hollow insides are then stuffed with mixture of the food being cooked. The bamboo is sealed on both ends with wild leaves. Everything is rotated regularly over the fire, and considered ready when the bamboo no longer releases juice and begins to burn on the outside. Then, the bamboo is split down the center. The Ao Naga people generally add an edible fern to the fish, and garnish the dish with dried bamboo shoots, mashed chili pepper, hot locally grown garlic and salt. This preparation cannot be found in restaurants or at markets, because it is time consuming to cook, therefore it is generally prepared only for festive occasions.

The method of using these bamboo varieties in cooking, both as a tool and for the special flavor that they give to dishes, originated when fishermen would cook their catches outdoors, when they did not carry utensils or other cooking tools with them. Today, this bamboo can be found for sale locally in very limited quantities. More often, it is harvested directly for personal use when people are cooking during holiday seasons or for special guests. Culinary bamboo varieties are deeply linked to the people of Nagaland, and are a living tradition culinary tradition that dates back before the use of modern-day utensils. However, this tradition is slowly losing its value as people turn towards cooking methods that do not take as long and using tools made from other materials.

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Indigenous community:Ao